There Can be no Objective Morality Without God

One of the more common objections to atheism is that without God there can be no objective morality.

This is certainly true. But it ignores the fact that thus far, even if there were a God, he’s not providing any objective morality either.

For a higher power to provide an objective morality, it must first have a standard to which you would want to hold us, and then it must communicate that standard clearly and effectively to us.

Presumably the God of Abraham (and or Jesus) has objective moral standards to which he wishes to hold us. However, it is quite clear to any independent observer that he has utterly failed to communicate them to us clearly and effectively.

Most Christians will tell you he has—through a book called the bible. But that book is contradictory, subject to transcription errors, changes and modifications based on political considerations, and is largely written in a long dead language nobody speaks anymore.

The reason people think there’s an obvious objective moral standard is because the intent seems clear to them. They read a part of the bible, they understand what they think the message is, and assume it must be just as clear to everyone else if they just open their eyes and look at it like you do.

But the message is so unclear that nobody can agree. There are 55k sects of Christianity alone, 3k of them excommunicative with the others (which is to say that they think they alone hold the right interpretation, and even other Christians of other sects are just as damned to hell as any atheist). There’s the Westborough Baptist Church which praises the death of gay soldiers (and would likely murder gays themselves if they could get away with it) to the Prosperity Gospel which preaches that Jesus wants you to be rich. There are Jews, who don’t believe the New Testament happened at all, and Mormons who think that the bible is a number of books too short, and Muslims, who think it’s a fine book and all, but an even better one has been written since. And this is just in keeping with those who have had access to God’s objective moral code, which precludes a billion Chinese and a number of Hindus and more.

All of this is to say nothing of the fact that all of the modern interpretations of this “objective” moral code are quite far removed from that of even 200 years ago. If you’re not burning witches, stoning gays, and if you’re working on the sabbath, you’re in violation of what has, for the vast majority of Christianity, been considered pillars of this “objective” faith.

The greatest Christian thinkers, from Aquinas and Augustine to Luther and Moore, all taught that the bible instructed the murder of a great many kinds of people (whom they graciously pointed out to the inquisitors and the like). They believed with all their hearts, they knew as well as anyone knows, that they were doing God’s work. This notion that maybe murder is just plain wrong, even of those who don’t agree with you, is a very modern one.

Everybody thinks that their religion provides an objective set of morally if only you come to look at the “true” meaning of the text, which is of course however they have chosen to look at it. However this is the very definition of a subjective set of morals. What would make them objective would be if everyone else could agree, but so far there is no religious text coming even close to meeting this standard.

So this notion that God has provided us with an objective moral code we can understand and decipher is laughably false. Nobody’s ever agreed on any objective morality, even in the instances when they agree on the same God. The closest they’ve been able to come is to find others which concur with their views, and reinforce their beliefs within their group, which while affirming, is not objective.

So how does an atheist find morality, without this objective code? The same way the Christians do (since they don’t have one either). Christians already have their beliefs of what is right and wrong, and join a church which justifies these previously held beliefs. I mean, how many people think murder is okay, walk into church, and then realize it’s not?. And if your church starts to drift too far from what you believe (if you just hate homosexuality, but your church begins to teach tolerance towards gays), you’ll up and find a new church more in line with what you believe. People don’t change their beliefs to fit God’s code, people change the interpretation of God’s code to fit what they believe, what already makes sense to them.

The atheist simply removes the affirmation process, the echo chamber which re-enforces that which you already choose to believe. The downside is you are less certain of your beliefs (but that certainty was never justifiable), but the upside is that you’re more likely to make good judgement because you apply reason and thought to each situation, instead of relying on a 3,000 year old book.

Any objection to atheism on the grounds that it does not provide an objective moral compass must contend with the fact that theism doesn’t either—it simply provides an imaginary warrant for beliefs the theist already holds.

Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
Notify of